Michael.Kugelman

Michael Kugelman

Michael Kugelman is the South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He tweets @MichaelKugelman (twitter.com/MichaelKugelman)

PTI social media codes for nothing, trolling for free

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article that suggested Imran Khan’s political fortunes have changed for the worse, and that the PTI is unlikely to win this year’s elections. Soon thereafter, I received an email with the following subject line: “DECLINING POLITICAL PROSPECTS OF IMRAN KHAN??? ARE YOU RETARDED” The message itself cut right to the chase. “Listen to me, Imran Khan is our son and an asset to Pakistan. Just because he won’t bow down to you white [expletive] … does not mean that he won’t win the elections.” After some witheringly profane (and wholly unprintable) material, my irate interlocutor concluded with some ...

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Announcing Washington’s latest scheme to light a fire under Pakistan’s economy

A prominent Pakistani journalist once quipped that conspiracy theories are Pakistan’s only growing industry. Clearly he’s not familiar with the booming American flag business. The well-established textile industry is racked with inefficiency, and emerging pharmaceutical and telecommunications sectors remain works in progress. Yet the production of US flags is flourishing. One prolific producer claimed to churn out as many as 500 flags per hour. “Our sales are on fire,” another proudly declared. Yet another boasted of huge profits. The fiery followers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jamaat-e-Islami are particularly eager customers. Though the highly flammable products occasionally have tragic consequences, consumer demand remains insatiable. “We’re burning through ...

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America, apologise!

Let’s cut right to the chase. The US government should apologise for last November’s tragic raid at Salala. I say this for three reasons. Firstly, Pakistani soldiers were killed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) firepower. Though the details remain unclear, and the incident may have been just a terrible accident, regardless of how it happened, the bottom line is that Pakistanis who should not have been killed were in fact killed. When such incidents occur in Afghanistan, and Afghan troops are killed by US or Nato troops, Washington describes them as “friendly fire” accidents and promptly apologises. America’s refusal to ...

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NATO conference: A tale of too many non-attendees

For quite some time, the world has been talking about this month’s NATO conference, which will be held in Chicago on May 20 and 21 and shall focus in great part on Afghanistan’s future. Yet with the event now just days away, the roster of attendees makes it hard to take the conference very seriously. How many of Afghanistan’s neighbours are confirmed participants? One, and that is Pakistan. (Incidentally, Russia has also now announced it will be present—another example of a nation at odds with the policies of certain Nato countries yet nonetheless willing to hold its nose and travel ...

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A year after Bin Laden: Could it happen again?

A year after the Abbottabad raid that plunged the US-Pakistan relationship to a new low, one big takeaway is that America’s general public is finally familiar with the name of at least one Pakistani city (though this does not mean we and our media have a handle on its geographical location). But on a more serious note, could there be an Abbottabad redux? Could there be another unannounced assault on Pakistani territory to take out a big-ticket terrorist? If there is one thing President Obama has demonstrated in recent months, it is that he is influenced by the hard-line rhetoric emanating ...

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Why announce a bounty on Hafiz Saeed?

Why now? At a critical moment in the US-Pakistan relationship, with parliamentary debate raging in Pakistan about how to realign relations with Washington, and with the United States desperate to forge some level of cooperation with Islamabad to help move toward the elusive endgame in Afghanistan, why announce a bounty for “information leading to the arrest or conviction” of living-openly-in-Lahore Hafiz Saeed? This is, after all, a man Washington and New Delhi regard as a terrorist, yet whom many in Pakistan regard as a heroic symbol of defiance toward the United States, an essential strategic asset, or both. In short, Washington’s ...

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Obama’s apology and the ashes of the Holy Quran

Last week, as the horrible news spread that US military officials had incinerated copies of the Holy Quran at Bagram airbase, American military and civilian leaders quickly said they were sorry. NATO commander General John Allen and US President Barack Obama both apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A top US defense official, Peter Lavoy, even appeared at a Washington DC area mosque to offer his apologies to worshippers during Friday prayers. Yet Washington also went beyond apologies. Allen announced an investigation into the affair, and the military pledged new training for its personnel. “These actions do not represent the views of ...

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The Pakistan-Iran pipedream

For a government often accused of indecision and weakness, Islamabad has been strikingly defiant about its determination to pursue a natural gas pipeline deal with Iran. Pakistan’s strident tone has not changed in light of Washington’s heightened sanctions regime vis-à-vis Iran, which bans countries from having commercial transactions with Tehran. The foreign ministry has declared that the sanctions do not affect the pipeline project. Other Pakistanis, however, fear that the sanctions may well present problems. One prominent lawyer has suggested Islamabad go so far as to lobby the UN to ensure the ...

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10 notable protests, political movements of 2011

When a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in late 2010, he ignited a mass protest movement across his country. What Mohamed Bouazizi likely never expected, however, is that the uprising would be followed by many others worldwide. With 2011 drawing to a turbulent close, now is an opportune time to highlight the ten most notable protests and political movements of the last year. Tunisia protests: Removing President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power is only part of the story. Remarkably, notwithstanding isolated demonstrations against the new government’s failure to prosecute the ousted president’s supporters, Tunisia has enjoyed a relatively smooth ...

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The Republican threat

Several weeks ago, US presidential candidates from the Republican party descended on Washington to participate in a televised debate on foreign policy. They wasted no time in unleashing a torrent of invective about Pakistan. Michele Bachmann described it as “a nation that lies, that does everything that you could imagine wrong.” Jon Huntsman declared it “a nation-state that is a candidate for failure.” Rick Perry contended that “they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted.” Some of the nastiest language came from the two frontrunners. “Help us, or get out of the way,” warned Newt Gingrich, “but don’t complain ...

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